Japanese eggplant is in abundance right now at my local farmers market and I’ve been wanting to figure out this dish for quite a while. Many people cook with globe eggplants; the large, round, dark purple kind that is in most grocery stores. I’ve strayed from that variety in recent years, mostly because of the flavor and lack of seeds in the Japanese kind. They each have their place, but sometimes globe eggplants end up being more seed than flesh, and that makes them quite bitter. I have never had to salt a Japanese eggplant like I might do with a globe.
Miso is fermented soy bean paste. There are several varieties and it’s just a matter of picking the right one for your flavor profile. I mostly use the mellow white and red kinds, and occasionally chickpea miso which I find in the bulk bin of my natural foods store. White miso isn’t very strong and can be added to soups, sauces, and dips for a more earthy, complex flavor. Red miso is much stronger and saltier and a little goes a long way. I sometimes blend the two in recipes, such as in this one. If you are a miso virgin, I suggest starting out with mellow white miso, which can be found either in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store, or in the ethnic foods isle. You can always find them at Asian grocery stores as well. Miso lasts nearly forever in your refrigerator so don’t worry if it takes you a while to finish a container of it. You can learn more about miso here.
4 Japanese eggplants
2 tsp white miso
1 tsp red miso
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger (microplanes work best here)
white and black sesame seeds for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Cut tops off eggplant and slice in half, lengthwise.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place eggplant cut-side down. Bake about 35 minutes or until soft. While eggplant is baking, whisk together the remaining ingredients to form the miso glaze.
3. When eggplant is done, remove the pan and set the oven to broil. Turn eggplant cut-side up and, using a pastry brush, brush on miso glaze, evenly distributing it onto each piece, using it all up. If you do not have a pastry brush, use a spoon to carefully place and smooth mixture onto each piece.
4. Place pan back under broiler and cook until the glaze starts to bubble and brown. Keep an eye on the eggplant and turn the pan as needed so each piece is perfectly browned and not burned. To serve, sprinkle with white and black sesame seeds.